MLB Injuries

I want to start today with something from Bob Molinaro’s column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot about a week ago:

“It goes without saying that the MLB pitch clock has virtually nothing to do with the pandemic of elbow injuries to pitchers. The Astros’ Justin Verlander, a former Old Dominion star who knows something about pitching and injuries, says, ‘It would be easiest to blame the pitch clock,’ but cites instead the changing style of pitching, ‘everybody throwing as hard as they possibly can and spinning the ball as hard as they possibly can.’ When raw power displaces craftiness, something’s got to give. More and more, it’s the ulnar collateral ligament.”

Verlander is correct to exonerate the pitching clock; the injuries arise from the stress/strain put on pitchers’ arms by the way they are throwing the baseball and not by the time interval between the throws.  And I think there is another “culprit” here – – “Analytics”.

As more data becomes available on the efficacy of high velocity pitches combined with high-spin rates making the ball break sharply, pitchers are encouraged to use that combined effort as often as possible.  If it is more difficult for the opposing batters to hit the baseball, that is a plus for the team in the field.

No one invented this advantageous pitching style; it was available all along to pitchers back in the “olden days” of baseball but without radar guns and instruments to measure spin-rate and the computing power to figure out what that combination produces, pitchers did not try to throw every pitch at 98mph or greater while also trying to make it break/drop by a foot.  Maybe by accident a fireballer like Bob Feller tossed one of these new-fangled pitches but he did not make a living doing so and he lasted quite a while.

This is the dark side of “Analytics”.  It can never be wrong.  The numbers are unassailable; they show that pitchers are more effective when they “bring the heat” and “spin it up”.  So, how can it possibly be wrong to throw that “stuff” as often as possible?

As of this morning according to there are 77 starting pitchers on MLB’s Injured List and there are an additional 76 relief pitchers in the same status.  They do not all suffer from the same injury, but “shoulder” “forearm” and “elbow” are the prominent designators for why those 143 pitchers are not actively pitching.

Having pinned some of the blame for pitching injuries on “Analytics”, let me now suggest that there might be an area for expanded analytics seeking to reduce injury rates in MLB.  The news that Mike Trout will need surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee and that he will be “out indefinitely”, got me thinking about baseball injuries other than the ones to pitchers’ arms.

Mike Trout seems to be cursed by at least one of the baseball gods; in the last three seasons, Trout has only been able to play in 237 of the 486 scheduled games (just under half the games).  But there are plenty of other position players in the IL with maladies such as “hamstring” or “back” or “ribs” or “hip”.  There are 227 players on the IL already in the 2024 season and I wonder if any of the “Analytics” experts are looking to see if there are flaws in training techniques used by MLB teams that allow for high injury rates.  Let me do some simple math here:

  • 30 MLB teams X 26 active players per team = 780 active players.
  • Almost 30% of the number of active players in MLB this morning is on IL.

Intuitively, that seems like a high percentage to me – – and so, I wonder if there might be “studies” done to seek some preventive measures.

Moving on …  The NBA Playoffs have arrived at the interesting point; six spots in the NBA’s “Elite Eight” have been determined.  Still hoping for a chance to continue playing are the Cavs and/or Magic in the East and the Clippers and/or the Mavs in the West.  The six teams that have advanced so far make up a pretty “chalky” list.  Only one team that was a lower-seeded team advanced so far; that was the six seed Pacers eliminating the three seed Bucks.

There is a minor bit of schadenfreude in that Pacers/Bucks result.  Back in mid-season the Bucks were cruising along with a 30-13 record when the team chose to fire their young head coach, Adrian Griffin.  The explanation then was that the Bucks were not playing effective defense and that the team’s braintrust concluded that improvement there was essential to having success in the playoffs.  So, the Bucks hired Doc Rivers to take over the team and to make the defense better.

Statistically, the Bucks’ defense improved in the second half of the season.  Nevertheless, the Bucks lost in the first round of the playoffs, and one will never know if the coaching change in the middle of last season was a good idea or a bad one.  I think it was certainly a premature one.

Finally, I started today with an item from Bob Molinaro, and I will close today with a bookend item from the same source:

Sarcasm ahead: Virtually every TV highlight from baseball’s spring training is a long ball, as if that’s all the game is about. That would be like daily NBA highlights of nothing but dunks and three-pointers. Uh, never mind.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



3 thoughts on “MLB Injuries”

  1. “…the six seed Pacers eliminating the three seed Bucks.”
    In each of their four wins, the Indiana Pacers scored a minimum of 120 points. Maybe, with a season off, Bucks’ head coach Doc Rivers can get the laggard Milwaukee team on the floor to play defense. But his grade today matches what my students would say after receiving their latest math test results:

    Epic fail.

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